The Major Rebrands of 2021: Cadillac, Meta, CIA, and Block

Divad Sanders
January 5, 2022

What gets advertised as the top rebrands of the year, are really logo redesigns by popular brands.

When I began this series, The Best Rebrands, it was because I noticed that most articles only focused on the design aspect of a rebrand. A breakdown of the logo without mention to why the change happened in the first place.

An effective rebrand goes beyond the visual identity.

If you’re searching for design inspiration, then this isn’t the article for you. However, if you want to find out which brands experienced the most dynamic changes this year and why they chose to rebrand, give this article keep reading.

1. Cadillac

Designs by Mother Design

Cadillac is a luxury vehicle manufacturer. However, the definition of “luxury” has evolved since the company’s inception in the early 1900s. Whereas luxury used to be about embellishments, lavish interiors, and plenty of legroom, it is now mainly focused on features.

In the modern world of luxury vehicles, entertainment systems, heated seats, phone pairing capabilities, and other features are required.

As the new decade progresses, electric vehicle lines are becoming yet another requirement for automakers. This results in reinvented product designs and how consumers perceive automotive brands.

Designs by Mother Design

This has the potential to be my favorite rebrand of the year. The new logo not only adds a modern twist to the iconic Cadillac crest but also complements the car’s style. The revised brand is a better depiction of the cars to come as Cadillac expands its fleet of electric vehicles.

Reimagining a modern-day classic

The Cadillac brand is on a mission to modernize itself. The company recently announced a line of future vehicles with a preview of their first electric car. With its take on a new type of American luxury, Cadillac rolled out an updated logo and full visual identity.

Cadillac crest updates from 2000 to 2021
Cadillac crest updates from 2000 to 2021

The redesigned logo is sleek and bold with its monochrome style. The days of elaborate hood ornaments are over. The logo is installed as an integral component of the vehicle, not as an afterthought. The new design, which lacks shadows and colors, concentrates on the crest’s silhouette.

This design resembles the company’s new line of products that share its sharp edges and boxy frame. The logo sits in perfect balance with its line of vehicles.

Type family collaboration (Cadillac Gothic) between Mother Design and Colophon Foundry

Also designed, a collaboration between Mother Design and Colophon Foundry, is a custom type family, Cadillac Gothic. This new typeface is a fantastic complement to the rebrand for usage on stationery and catalogs.

Each letter’s extension symbolizes the elongated appearance of Cadillac cars. Edgings reminiscent of the old Cadillac crest can be found at the ends of letters such as C, A, and L. It’s wonderful to see when companies pay respect to their past while also embracing their future.

2. Meta (formerly Facebook)

Images courtesy of Meta Platforms Inc.

A rebrand is a reevaluation of a brand’s fundamental attributes, such as its position in the market, target audience, mission, and services. Meta Platforms Inc. (formerly Facebook, Inc.) hit each point.

Let’s face it, Facebook has been shot with every silver bullet that should kill any tech giant:

  • Shareholders loss of faith in the leadership
  • Public outrage over the use of the product
  • Issues with privacy and data security
  • Scapegoat for the propagation of cyberbullying

During the 2016 US Presidential elections, Facebook played a critical role in the transmission of misinformation and propaganda via its platform. Russian meddling in the American public sphere via bot accounts splintered the country. Not to mention data mining for political campaigns.

Despite Facebook’s continued increase in active user count, the brand’s image was under fire. The change was imminent.

The Metaverse is closer than you think

Social media is in no way a dying medium, but it will be highly regulated and continue to be chastised in the future. For Facebook, which is on the verge of a $1 trillion market cap, the next 15 years cannot be spent in the same field.

Thus, Meta was born!

Images courtesy of Meta Platforms Inc.

The rebranding of Facebook as Meta represents a significant shift in how the company will operate. Meta, formerly the most powerful actor in social media, is transitioning to the “metaverse.”

Right now, our brand is so tightly linked to one product that it can’t possibly represent everything that we’re doing today, let alone in the future. Over time, I hope that we are seen as a metaverse company, and I want to anchor our work and identity on what we’re building toward. — Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder and CEO of Meta

Rebranding is a strategic step for the future of a company. In their Founder’s Letter of 2021, Mark Zuckerberg describes the metaverse as an “embodied internet”. It sounds like something out of science fiction, but this will be the world we live in. Meta has already made major investments in AR (augmented reality) and AI (artificial intelligence).

Images courtesy of Meta Platforms Inc.

The majority of this rebranding is under the hood. The new name and logo are a shift in identity, but Meta’s mission is “to help bring the metaverse to life”. A bit different from Facebook’s original mission:

Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them.

The objective of branding is to be top-of-mind in your industry. In the next 5 years, when someone Googles “metaverse”, which brand will be number one? Meta wants to be synonymous with the metaverse and the biggest brand in the business.

3. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

Image courtesy of CIA.gov

I’m willing to bet that no one has ever looked to a government agency for design inspiration. Let’s face it: these organizations exist solely to do a job. Their brand identity lacks flair and awe.

After researching many federal and state departments, one word I would use to describe them is traditional. When looking at their logos, most of the departments have the same components. It’s safe to say that eagles are popular in America.

United States Federal Government Departments and Agencies

You’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between a courtroom in 1991 and 2021. These government agencies are not concerned with user experience or establishing a brand culture.

However, some departments do take their public image seriously.

Consider popular culture: Which government agencies are frequently depicted in films and television shows? The DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration), FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation), and CIA are the primary agencies used.

Recruiting the next generation of secret agents

Although the new CIA visual identity does not break new ground in design, I do still see its importance.

Your brand should not only communicate with your customers, but also new employees. With police department missteps in public relations and the country’s bigger concerns about international affairs in the aftermath of 9/11, new generations of Americans have rejected the nation’s “fight for freedom.”

Thus, recruitment efforts have been met with stagnation.

Central Intelligence Agency
Images courtesy of CIA.gov

A survey conducted by the International Association of Chief of Police (IACP) reported that 78% of agencies are having difficulty in recruiting qualified candidates.

The CIA is not immune. Hoping to appeal to younger recruits, the agency updated its logo, website, and social media. Whether this will be effective in recruitment remains to be seen.

But what we can surmise from this rebrand is that the purpose of a brand is not just to get more customers. Branding is about developing a culture around who you are, what you do, and why you serve your people.

As with most government agencies in the United States, the leadership has generally been white, male, and over 50. We can see that the country is changing. People from various walks of life are offering their voices to drive the ball ahead, and they need to be in positions of influence.

4. Block (formerly Square)

Image courtesy of Block.xyz

In 2009, Twitter founder and ex-CEO Jack Dorsey founded Square as a financial services startup. You’re probably most familiar with them for their point-of-sale (POS) system and mobile credit card reader.

Since then, Block, Inc. (formerly Square, Inc.) has been busy acquiring companies in fintech, music, and more. Companies under the Block brand:

  • Square — provides a wide range of business solutions, business software, and banking services to make it easier for businesses to operate and grow.
  • Cash App — redefining what money means to the world by making money more relatable, accessible, and instantly available.
  • Spiral (formerly Square Crypto) — invests in free, open-source projects that promote bitcoin as a means of economic empowerment.
  • TIDAL — a global music platform that brings fans closer to their favorite artists and gives artists the tools to succeed as entrepreneurs.
  • TBD54566975 — a developer platform for bitcoin and other blockchain technologies that makes it easier to access them without a middleman.

Similar to Facebook’s rebrand to Meta, Block is solidifying itself in the new world of Web3. Whereas Facebook’s evolution to Meta might be attributed to the company’s public scrutiny, Block appears to be heading in this direction merely to consolidate the brand’s businesses.

Under the Block umbrella, we see brands like Cash App implementing the purchase of bitcoin within the product. Through their grant program, Spiral (formerly Square Crypto) provides developers and designers with the resources to improve bitcoin’s privacy, security, user experience, and ability to scale.

This rebrand establishes Block as a forerunner in the new wave of blockchain technologies. Not to mention, their purchase of 4,709 bitcoins for $50 million in 2020 cemented the company’s position as a big investor in cryptocurrency.

Building blocks with a new purpose
Image courtesy of Block.xyz

As we can see, the company is moving in a different direction than just credit card readers. A rebrand from Square to Block was necessary to better live its mission of “economic empowerment”.

The Block logo shows a fluid rainbow of gradients as they morph, twisting and spinning the cube. The company issued the animated logomark as the primary version, with static versions only ever used as a backup. Blockchain, building blocks,  a section of code, and neighborhood blocks are all referenced in the design.

The brands listed above did not go through a rebrand because they didn’t like their logo or they found a trendy way to market their business.

Their purpose for rebranding stems from a change in the company direction as a result of a change in the world. Augmented reality, a diverse workforce, electric vehicles, and blockchain technology are already revolutionizing the world. Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic in these fields does not matter.

These rebrands are signaling a new trend. The biggest companies are becoming early adopters in the next wave of life-altering industries.

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